The University of California, Merced campus may be expanding into the community near the downtown area as the university is a top bidder for a piece of land across from the Merced Civic Center.
The publicly auctioned .85 acre parcel is currently vacant and located at the intersection of 18th and N streets and will likely serve as a building for staff members. Barring no escrow problems, the university will pay $630,000 for the land facilitated through the U.S. Eastern District of California Bankruptcy Court auction, which closed last week. The purchase is anticipated to close later this summer after which official planning for the location will begin. The campus is also working with the City of Merced to lease office space in the Parcade Building, located at the intersection of 18th and M streets that would serve as a hub for technology transfer and entrepreneurialism.
“These developments represent a significant campus commitment to downtown Merced. We believe in its growth, vitality and its future role in the development of the campus,” said Chancellor Dorothy Leland. “The new administrative building and technology hub expand our connection with the community and will be an economic driver for the area as the campus moves toward having 10,000 students by 2020.”
The UC Board of Regents endorsed 2020 plan aims to not only increase the overall student population but to allow UC Merced to expand its research resources and accelerate overall growth. A panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute recommended UC Merced locate a significant amount of staff members to a central location in the town in order to strengthen the University’s presence within the city. UC Merced already leases space at several locations in Merced and Atwater and this additional off-campus location would be for staff members who generally don’t work directly with students or faculty members on a day-to-day basis.
“Having a presence downtown will lead to more collaboration with local and regional industry and provide much-needed space for the campus’s budding entrepreneurs to hone their ideas,” said Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Sam Traina.
The University’s increased presence in the city of Merced will have more than a positive public relations effect as it would foster growth for existing plans such as the University’s Innovate to Grow program which pairs student teams with local businesses to solve problems by developing real engineering solutions. The Parcade Building would provide a significant presence for commercializing research such as this in downtown Merced as the campus expands its research portfolio. The ultimate goal of the 2020 plan is to have a strong collaborative presence between the downtown and the University for students, faculty and staff.
“We very much appreciate the commitment UC Merced is continuing to make in our downtown area,” said Merced Mayor Stan Thurston said.